TransLink implements COVID-19 induced cuts including temporary layoffs, executive pay reduction and expansion deferrals, among others

April 21, 2020
The cost cutting measures are needed to stem the C$75 million per month in loses the transit provider is experiencing.

Temporary staff layoffs, cuts to executive pay, drastic service reductions and deferred expansion plans are among the cost cutting measures needed to preserve essential transit service.  

The cuts were required after TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said the agency was left with no other options to help stem the C$75 million (US$54.01 million) per month in losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. TransLink says the rate of loss is unsustainable.

Services had previously been reduced, but TransLink still carried 75,000 people per day on its system. Beginning this week, service will be reduced on all modes and will focus on the most in demand routes. Changes represent up to a 40 percent reduction in capacity on the Expo and Millennium Lines and bus service will only accommodate 20 percent of normal levels.

In addition to further service reductions, TransLink will reduce senior executive salaries and board remuneration by 10 percent and temporarily lay off 1,492 employees who hold various positions within TransLink and its operating companies Coast Mountain Bus Company and British Columbia Rapid Transit Company.

Organizational costs and program expenditures are also on the chopping block, with TransLink deferring the 2020 Major Road Network operations, maintenance and rehabilitation program funding to municipalities; deferring 2020 service expansion plans; and tapping into cash reserves to sustain current essential service operations through the end of 2020.

Last week, Desmond explained that without emergency funding service would need to undergo unprecedented cuts. The agency says operating revenues have been reduced by 50 percent since mid-March from a combination of factors, including an 83 percent reduction in ridership levels, falling fuel tax revenue and fare removal on the bus system to promote physical distancing.

“This has been an incredibly tough decision and one we do not take lightly,” said Desmond. “We’ve done our best to try and reduce costs through other means, but TransLink is losing C$75 million per month, and we’re left with no other options. It’s not lost on me what an impact this decision will have on the lives of our employees and their families. I fully expect those affected will be recalled once TransLink returns to regular operations, which we are now planning for back-to-school in September, if consistent with provincial guidelines.”

TransLink and the province of British Columbia have been working closely to ensure that funding is available to allow TransLink to reverse layoffs and return to near-regular operations in time for back-to-school in September. TransLink and the province are also working on a plan to address the longer-term fiscal sustainability of TransLink in order to ensure the transportation authority can continue delivering transit services and key projects in 2021 and beyond.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.